Praise

“Enthralling… Sweet Relief is that rare book: a page-turner in which the plot is secondary to the brilliant, visceral portrayal of its characters.” O, Oprah’s Magazine

“[A novel] akin to the film Magnolia (if Saul Bellow had written the novelization).” Bitch Magazine

“That Braunstein so poignantly and insightfully plumbs the depths of human existence, fearlessly exploring the darkness as well as the light, is extraordinary. That she has done so in her first novel nearly defies belief. Reading is believing … enjoy and join the fellow readers who anxiously await Ms. Braunsteinsʼ next work.” Bill Lundgren, Longfellow Books

“An unflinching probe into the frailty of children’s dreams and desires… a brave and daring book… a highly original and superb work of fiction.” The Portland Press Herald

“A novel you won’t want to put down. These are characters you won’t want to stop rooting for.”  Newcity Lit

“Everywhere… there is desire. Braunstein doesn’t shy away from tunneling into her characters’ most secret shames and obsessions, and her talent lies in her ability to depict them as at once unique and banal… Ultimately– almost improbably– we are left with a shimmer of hope… We’re reminded that what trapped means for one person is  freedom to someone else. And that freedom itself may be a kind of trap. There is beauty in these sympathies, even if they’re not the easy ones; there is sad, sweet relief and the poignant, loose dumbness of life. Braunstein presents it here beautifully, unsparingly, and true.” Anne Sanow, Provincetown Arts

“This powerful debut… concerns the harrowing fate of three young people—Leonora, who is kidnapped; Paul, who runs away from an abusive home; and Judith, who seeks adventure—and their struggles are mesmerizingly difficult to behold. These intersecting stories of children in acute circumstances are spun like word art, holding listeners spellbound, unnerved, confused, and helpless.” Judith Robinson, Library Journal (starred review of Audiobook)

“Artfully executed, with the precise touch of a writer whose power lies not in any spectacularly plotted storyline but in the careful orchestration of many rich details…. An undercurrent of necessary humor keeps Sweet Relief‘s pages free of melodrama, while subtly asserting the absurdity of life.” Daphne Kalotay, The Tottenville Review

“In her first novel, Braunstein… gives us a complex and multifaceted study of children who conquer bad childhoods– and children who cannot. Braunstein paints a gorgeous portrait of a wide variety of characters, all fully realized…Highly recommended for readers of contemporary fiction.” Library Journal

“[Braunstein’s] debut novel is an unsettling read that is also strangely compelling… Through random encounters and elliptical dialogue, Braunstein locates the pain in these people’s lives and makes it shimmer.” Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist

“Watch out Jennifer Egan, Sarah Braunstein is coming for your readers… I am completely in awe of Sarah Braunstein as both a writer and a storyteller.” nomadreader

“This intricate web of stories entraps the reader, evoking the same feelings of isolation and disorientation that the characters themselves experience, all the while pushing us to feel compassion for those who search for—and never find—the love they so desperately want for themselves.” Jennine Capó Crucet, The L Magazine

“A magnificent debut.…You emerge from her work feeling changed. This novel marks the arrival of a fierce and important new literary voice.” Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, National Book Award Finalist, author of Madeleine is Sleeping

“I have never encountered a book that treated its characters with such savage compassion. Braunstein’s clairvoyant empathy perceives our deepest fears– of abandonment, of shame, of self-betrayal– and insists we feel them all at once. The cumulative effect is somehow not realism but super-realism. These people have what Joan Didion calls ‘the courage of their mistakes.’ I felt morally inspired by this book, instructed in a franker experience of my own emotional life. And all of it, on every page, in prose that moves with wondrous, terrifying speed.” Salvatore Scibona, National Book Award Finalist, author of The End

“Sarah Braunstein has created a dazzling novel, weaving together a dozen unique and memorable characters whose lives intersect at their most vulnerable, leaving them transformed and us transfixed.  This is an author who remembers acutely the powerlessness and possibility of childhood, the way every first is both a thrill and a terror.  Luminous and precise, each scene is cast in a hyperreal glare, as the story rushes to an unexpected yet thrilling conclusion.  I love this book so much, I hated to reach the final page.” Malena Watrous, author of If You Follow Me

“Sarah Braunstein has written a startling and darkly beautiful first novel. Her characters are so vivid, so perfectly drawn, that I doubt you will ever forget them. Braunstein’s talent is enormous.” Danielle Trussoni, author of Angelology

“As I started turning the pages, what kept striking me, at least a few times per paragraph, were these thrilling jolts of recognition, these moments of awe, that feeling that yes, indeed, here I am awake to the world, to its wonders and dread. This is a big book, kaleidoscopic, though the joy of reading it comes from its small astonishments, thrilling jolts of recognition that occur on every page.” Lewis Robinson, author of Officer Friendly and Water Dogs

“Unflinching, unfiltered, utterly unique, and crackingly honest. It will melt your face off, it will curl your toes, it will throttle your brains, it will ooze into your pores, it make you feel like you are on the prow of a great luxurious ship and the salt wind is whipping by and blowing your hair back and you just have never felt so beautiful before…” Steve Abbott, Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance

“In The Sweet Relief of Missing Children, a peeping tom claims his peeping is not unsavory; rather, it is ‘one human being in awe of another.’ The reader becomes that sort of watcher in these chapters, peering into a variety of small-town kitchens and bedrooms, and looking hard into hearts that have been broken or shaken loose. Kids are abducted or they run away or they just plain get lost, while the grownups who remain feel like children, themselves. ‘We’re always sixteen, if you want to look at it that way,’ says a young mother, who is contemplating having an affair with a homeless stranger. Braunstein puts her characters in strikingly American settings: a shabby cottage that was once part of a great estate, a couch in the woods surrounded by garbage, an abortion clinic ringed by protesters, a seedy New York City hotel room where gunshots go unnoticed, a Come & Go market in a town called Beetle…. What I admire about this collage of a novel is Braunstein’s compassion for her characters, her willingness to dig deep to find the source and shape of their pain as well as the strengths they all possess. Braunstein investigates the lives of good girls, hungry boys, self-mutilators, desperate mothers, aficionados of orphan porn, men who piss in the sink, and men who read Kafka to their daughters in the mornings… As the novel progresses, the characters encounter one another in surprising ways, and their separate stories come together like pieces of broken glass from an object that can never be reconstructed.”  Bonnie Jo Campbell, National Book Award Finalist, author of American Salvage